Kansas is eight days into its “wrap-up” session, and not a tax plan in sight. For now, Capitol Watch is sticking with its adjournment date prediction of June 5, but we’ll admit to some qualms. It might be optimistic.
There is no such suspense about Missouri’s adjournment. By statute, that will happen Friday at 6 p.m., which means one final, hellacious week of legislation coming up.
A very controversial bill intended to cripple unions in Missouri by enabling nonmembers to opt out of fees for representation could be debated in the Senate as early as Monday. The so-called “right to work” bill is being pushed by out-of-state interests and is bad for Missouri.
The General Assembly already has taken steps to harm workers this session. A right-to-work bill, seen as the ultimate strike against union representation, would leave workers with even fewer options for redress.
Democrats in the Missouri Senate have vowed to filibuster such a move until the clock runs out. Here’s wishing them stamina.
The Missouri General Assembly often steps on local control. This week it did so with clodhoppers.
Both chambers passed a bill that started out to quash attempts by cities to ban plastic grocery bags, something the city of Columbia discussed a while ago.
Because Kansas City is contemplating a local vote on raising the minimum wage, legislators said local governments couldn’t do that either. It added unemployment compensation and other employee benefits to list of things cities and counties can’t decide on.
While debating the measure, at least two Republican House members framed the bill as a stand for “freedom.”
Freedom for consumers to choose between paper and plastic. Freedom for businesses to pay unlivable wages.
Freedom for state legislators to tell the elected representatives of local governments they can’t pass laws that are good for their environments or ask voters to weigh in on a minimum wage for workers as Kansas City has planned to do.
Sounds less like freedom and more like handcuffs.
Don’t look at me
You know that awkward moment when you say something and everybody just looks at you?
Kansas Sen. Les Donovan, the Wichita Republican who chairs the Senate tax committee, experienced more than his share of those this week, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal, as he floated a menu of possible tax changes that would help close the state’s $400 million budget hole.
Raise cigarette taxes? Make the sales tax even higher? Correct the runaway business tax exemptions? Nope, nobody much liked any of those.
Higher property taxes? Maybe. Tax amnesty, anyone?
Maybe committee members just need more time to figure out their best course is to roll back the reckless income tax cuts that caused the problem in the first place. Raising sales, gasoline or property taxes would place even more of a burden on low-income Kansans to pay for the damage wrought by Gov. Sam Brownback and like-minded lawmakers.
That’s the ticket
The Missouri legislature made real progress with a bill that will make it much harder for cities to use traffic fines as a major source of revenue.
A bill sent to Gov. Jay Nixon lowers the percentage of a city’s revenue that can come from traffic fines. It says the maximum penalty for a traffic ticket and court costs cannot exceed $300.
Work began on this bill when lawmakers realized that the city of Ferguson, and some other municipalities, have been ticketing residents rampantly as a way to balance their books. This kind of enforcement wreaks havoc for low-income citizens, who have dealt with mounting fines and time off work to meet court dates.
If Nixon signs the bill, as he should, it will fall to the attorney general’s office to vigorously enforce the new law.
Great news, fantasy sports fans of Kansas. You are well on your way to becoming legal.
Didn’t realize fantasy sports leagues were illegal in Kansas? You’re not alone, but the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission has viewed them as unlawful lotteries.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt reversed that opinion, saying that sports leagues are exercises of skill, not pure chance. Thus the Legislature gave the leagues an OK by large margins and sent a bill to Brownback. Stay tuned for his action. But don’t take any bets.